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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Back in 2016, we had a wonderful exchange of views on the nature of profundity in the arts. The whole objectivist/subjectivist thang was aired as part of the discussion, as was the linked Understanding versus Appreciating a work. These topics have a life of their own, but I enjoyed this thread very much and trust that others might also. Just my opinion. But just try the first page....

See 4chamberedklavier's post below for link to old thread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My Post #19 from the original thead.........

I'm not at all sure the the noun "profundity" can be applied to music, in an attempt to categorize it. It seems best to reserve the terms "profound, profundity" to truly illuminating, penetrating insights or discoveries that pierce through a jumble of seemingly isolated and discrete facts about reality and reveal to us an underlying deep truth that knits together many disparate facts into a unity. Examples would be the Theories (using the term as scientists use it) of Special and General Relativity, Evolution by Natural Selection, Plate Tectonics, and many recently verified discoveries in astronomy and cosmology. These are profound. There are areas of mathematics that are profound, and doubtless others will bring forth other examples. But Music? Art? We find ourselves back again in a forest of tautologies and of competing definitions and of opinions about who was great, what was great, or deep or profound. However, in cante flamenco for instance, where the song can be very jondo or grande, the measuring rod is simpler and generally accepted: to what extent does the performance, delivered within the recognized confines and accepted usages of the art form, move the listener, directly, emotionally, to empathetic sorrow, tears? Maybe not the same as the Eroica, but the criterion for profundity is clearly laid down here. In the more formal arts, such clarity of criteria is rarely found and often widely disputed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Luchesi:
but that in this prison,
we can fashion images of ourselves,
sufficiently powerful,
to deny our nothingness

Andre Malraux
A very fine passage from Malraux! The American poet Robinson Jeffers (whose brother was an astronomer of repute) spent most of his life and work on the place of humankind in the universe. He thought that people spent far too much time on celebrating their special place and specialness, speaking at times of humanity's incestuous relationship with itself. He preached constantly of the need for humankind to turn outward instead and to learn to cherish the great outer world/universe all around them. He and Malraux would have had an interesting discussion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
When I first saw the title of this OP, my first thought was (given the 2 past l-o-n-g threads): clickbait. The above confirms it (to me anyway). What can possibly be said here that hasn’t been in those preceding threads?
DaveM, we can count on you always to question the motives and attitudes of other posters and posts. You are free to pass on this thread, and thus bury it in the oblivion you think it deserves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Again, from the original thread:

:[Another poster] posits that profundity in art does not differ from profundity in what he terms philosophy, by which I suppose he subsumes science as a branch of philosophy. But then he states that the elements of reality to which art refers belong to a world of internal reality, which is to say they are subjective in nature. We are again in "a world of feeling", with all that implies, because your feelings may differ profoundly from mine. But I propose that [that poster] offer an example of a profound piece of art (let's specify that this be a painting or piece of sculpture), and we can consider whether it be profound or not in the sense that I propose that plate tectonics or the concept of an expanding universe is profound. I think the difference will be clear.

I personally have no problem with accepting that anyone can postulate that any piece of music or art is profound, if we simultaneously state that the term may have no real significance "objectively"-- it is merely convention to express our subjective personal preferences.[,,,,,,] The well of subjectivity may be deep indeed, and our experience of its waters quite moving, but that we ought not allow our primary definition of profundity to be tied to such variable and uncertain phenomena as personal experience; it is an exact parallel with our previous discussions on "greatness" in art.:
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
Taking a look at Edmund Burke and his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, here is Wikipedia: "According to Burke, the Beautiful is that which is well-formed and aesthetically pleasing, whereas the Sublime is that which has the power to compel and destroy us. The preference for the Sublime over the Beautiful was to mark the transition from the Neoclassical to the Romantic era."

Equating the Sublime with the Profound for the purposes of this discussion (and I think the link is very sound), we might link the Beautiful with Joy and with Pleasure while Burke tells us that notions of the Sublime are linked to awe and terror--terror of death included. When the thoughtful and the observant contemplate the vastness of nature and of the universe, there is a subconscious (or sometimes conscious) realization that our powers are as nothing compared with the solemnity and awesomeness of extra-human reality. We see things such as the Grand Canyon, see distant stars and galaxies, contemplate the endless rotation of the Earth and the orbiting of our moon about Earth and of Earth and the other planets around the sun, and contemplate the sun's inner furnace endlessly fusing hydrogen into helium for the billions of years that the solar system has existed, the enormous grandeur and inexorability of the greater outer world can easily lead to that Burkean Terror of death, of the idea of the puniness and irrelevance of our existence, that we could be crushed like insects by the enormous forces and structures around us.

The surest pathway to the Sublime (aka the Profound) and its realization by us is through science. Science gives us both the tools to discover and to observe more fully the full extent of that inhuman grandeur around us, and also through the working out of sound though always incomplete explanations and realizations of the nature of these enormous phenomena. Einstein, upon observational confirmation--by an eclipse of the sun and the bending of starlight around it--said that something snapped inside him--a cusp experience--as he contemplated the phenomenon itself but also this confirmation of his General Theory of Relativity. Carl Sagan remarked that the realization that the sun was a star (and his first view through a telescope of Saturn) were the catalysts that suddenly compelled him to become an astronomer.

So I repeat my thesis that profundity/sublimity in the Burkean sense is not really present in the arts to anywhere the degree that it is in science. The "Theories" of Relativity, the Expanding Universe, Plate Tectonics, Evolution, so many more, are what inspire, for me anyway, the most accurate and intense feelings of profundity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Woodduck: "Who is the "we" that ought not to allow exactly what? What is the "primary" definition that we ought not to apply? Why shouldn't the word "profound" refer to personal experience? Words are words, not things. They mean what they are used to mean. Defending your personal favorite definition of "profundity" may not be a worthwhile project."
The "we" is Us a la Pogo. The general, corporate Us. I have given, just above, a structured way of understanding the Profound as a general reaction of awe and of terror to the extra-human universe all around us. This universe is capable of being recognized and agreed upon by all with the wit to do so, whereas in Art that is not the case--there, the discussions and disagreements are never-ending and what art is profound is strictly in the eye and mind of each observer.

I deliberately used [another poster] to depersonalize our disagreements.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Forster: "So 'profundity' is as much an attitude as it is anything else so far identified." I think you are correct here. The arts, IMO, can only conjure up the emotions of pleasure (joy especially), tranquility, excitement, gloom, sadness--all emotions, often quite powerful. But this is not profundity in my view. I return to my original Post #19 of the old thread that; "I'm not at all sure the the noun "profundity" can be applied to music, in an attempt to categorize it. It seems best to reserve the terms "profound, profundity" to truly illuminating, penetrating insights or discoveries that pierce through a jumble of seemingly isolated and discrete facts about reality and reveal to us an underlying deep truth that knits together many disparate facts into a unity."
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Can you give an example of a piece of music that offers a " penetrating insight"?
I cannot. My experience is that art does not offer penetrating insights into anything. It can and does generate libraries of commentary attempting to claim that art does. I will affirm that art can provide an insight into the history and the Zeitgeist of particular times and places just as can other branches of inquiry. I would like to see others' examples of artworks that exhibit "penetrating insights". The Black Paintings of Goya show us the horrors that can grip an unbalaced mind, but we knew that already from the daily news feed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Metaphorical exemplification is a standard term in musical aesthetics used in preference to expression because it forestalls the potential implication that an emotion is being attributed to the composer. So instead of saying "this melody expresses sadness," which invites the question "Whose sadness?," one might say that through various features (slow descending line, frequent sigh motives, dark voicings, whatever) the melody metaphorically exemplifies sadness — a more neutral statement with less historical baggage. Virtually all abstract musical content attains meaning by virtue of elaborate systems of metaphor.

Coherent meaning well-formed in a way sufficiently sustained as to give a unified impression.
This reads like an aesthete's version of the ongoing findings of neurology, psychology, brain chemistry, the workings of the limbic system. It is translated into terms already familiar to the explainers of the arts
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Eva Yojimbo: "These are pathways to "profundity" in the arts I don't really see in science. A scientist's (or science lover's) feeling of profundity when contemplating of the cosmos is more something that comes from their own personality. Some people innately possess that; others do not. I don't think the work of science achieves it, I think it's simply the result of people who already felt it. Meanwhile, and by contrast, art can get almost everyone there, even the most insensitive of humans. My parents (artistic neophytes both) have works in which they've had this same feeling. I dare say most humans have."
The writings and other testimony of many scientists is replete with references to their sense of awe and profound appreciation of the extra human world and its phenomena. The writings of Richard Dawkins show this, as do those of other scientists struggling to explain that they (too) can and do experience the profound. Most of these scientists are avowed Freethinkers, to use a fine old 19th century term. One difference between art and science lovers is that most scientists are conversant enough with the major theories of their own and other fields to share, when asked, very similar views of the direct, specific causes of that awe.

In the arts, the objects of those feelings are, by contrast, all over the map, with some experiencing awe and sensing profundity in places and things where others see nothing of the sort; hence the much more highly variable, individualistic responses. We have talked of clusters--I submit that the cluster of scientists sharing an near-equal sense of awe and profundity is far larger (as a percentage) and more unified than the numerous clusters of art lovers who pursue very different subjects upon which to focus their enthusiasm. A lover of the works of Jackson Pollack will likely not be taken with those of Giorgione or Pierre Cot, whereas a scientist who is a physicist will strongly appreciate the workings of evolution or the movement of huge crustal plates. I think this says something about the relative "strengths" and seriousness of the profundity experienced by the two groups.



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Discussion Starter · #80 ·
Do you have any data to back that up, or is it just something you pulled out of your backside? I love both Webern and Mozart, as a counterexample. Someone who is interested in the visual arts is likely to appreciate both artists as lying along roughly the same continuum. As for the rest, Eva Yojimbo would know more about it, but it sounds to me like rehashed Spinoza.
Your counterexample of one! And Pollack, Cot, and Giorgione along a continuum. Let's add Kinkade, and the dogs playing poker. What are you contributing to the discussion?
 

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Discussion Starter · #82 ·
It says nothing of the sort. Your entire attempt to place art and science in competition with each other for "profundity" - a word that doesn't even mean exactly the same thing in the the two cases - is pure sophistry. I also find it odd that someone who absolutely denies the possibility that works of art can be meaningfully ("objectively") rated is so eager to rate one area of essential human endeavor as more "strong," "serious" and "profound" than another.

There's nothing wrong with having biases - inevitably we all do - but this looks like a case of someone trying to endow his subjective preferences with objective reality.
But what is being added to the discussion? I suggest you reread my notion that profundity should be limited to the fields, unifying discoveries, and insights of science as being more mind-bending--sublime, if you will (I do)--than the ten thousand voices and choices in the arts. I could post it yet again. But I won't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #84 ·
The question is what are you contributing? You start with these goofy sweeping generalizations set forth with an air of authority and triumph and which by force of inexorable logic end up in stretti of goofiness. A counterexample of one? Hey, everybody that likes both Mozart and Stravinsky, raise your hand! Sure you can add Kincade or whomever you like.
I urge interested posters to offer something original and germane.
 

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Discussion Starter · #89 ·
The premise that the greatness of works of Art must either be totally Objective or totally Subjective has always seemed to be one of those flakey philosophical arguments to me.
I would like your thoughts on the dichotomy. Unless all, all (with the exception of those with brain disease) agree on a satisfactory and uniform description of the criteria of greatness, the concept of greatness in the arts will remain entirely subjective. That is my position in nutshell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #91 ·
My point is it is a false dichotomy between two absurd stances. Total subjectivity means my Cat running up and down the piano is as great as any work of music. Total Objectivity means that the works of Beethoven can be ordered from greatest to least profound/sublime.
If it is your opinion that the aleatoric cat's "music" is great to you, then it is a valid and authentic view, for which I grant you ful autonomy. And you will grant me mine.
 
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